For the past year or so I’ve posted restaurant reports and photos from my travels on Instagram and concurrently on the Le Continental Facebook page. Instagram is an inadequate substitution for a blog imo for many reasons (weak search and tagging functions on Instagram show irrelevant, unsorted results, to name one reason) but blogs seem to be fading out. It’s too bad that independent, ad-free web sites are being replaced with corporate social media platforms but you have to keep up with your audience.
This web site / blog isn’t going anywhere so please keep it bookmarked for searching its 5 years of posts, which you can do in several ways: via the search box at the top right, using the category selector in the sidebar, by tag, or by searching in Google (for example if you type a restaurant name plus deanjab.com it will come up near the top).
I am tagging relevant posts on Instagram #lecontinental so you can find some that way (mixed in with posts from the Le Continental restaurant in Quebec City and many pictures that have nothing to do with classic restaurants or me).
Please also follow the Le Continental Facebook page because occasionally I share links to web articles, news about classic restaurants, and old posts from Le Continental.
Another new feature to make Le Continental more easy to use, especially while you jet setters are on-the-go! Just load the web site on your favorite mobile web browser, such as Chrome on Android or Safari on iPhone (other browsers also supported) and a simple version of the site loads automatically. Swipe through a slider of recent posts or scroll down to load more. View complete posts with an interactive map. Search the entire site’s post with the magnifying glass or access a menu of pages, including an interactive global map of all posts by location.
While checking out the mobile Le Continental I would like to bring to your attention a handy map feature which has been on the site for a long time but you may not be aware of it (it works on the mobile version, too). When viewing a map in a post if you click on the marker for the place a pop-up appears with options:
“Directions to” – naturally, it gives you directions to the place from a start point that you enter (or select My Location to start at your current location)
“Zoom” – zoom in to the place’s location
“Print” after selecting Directions to – actually, this transfers you to Google Maps in your browser or on your phone with the place selected. If you select Print after using Get Directions your route will be opened in Google Maps.
Hopefully, the new mobile Le Continental will help you find Le Continental-approved dining more easily, no matter where you are!
First, a global map of all the Le Continental approved restaurants and bars that have appeared on the site, with popup markers for quick access to the posts. You can access the map from the main menu below the banner image.
Second, a Geo Search function, which is located in the sidebar below the tag selector. You simply enter a city & state (like Los Angeles, CA) or zip code, pick a restaurant category (or choose the restaurants or bars categories for a less specific search), and a distance radius. Optionally, click Find Me to automatically enter your current location to search from. Click Search and a map page loads with all Le Continental locations displayed with a summary list sorted by distance!
Try it out!
I realize that it’s been a while since anything was posted on the site. New things are in progress so stay tuned!
In 2013 the famous Brennan’s in New Orleans, open since 1946 (since 1956 at its present location), closed abruptly in a foreclosure. But by the end of 2013 it reopened after a change of ownership (from one branch of the Brennan family to another branch) and a major remodel. Last November I returned to New Orleans and had breakfast at Brennan’s again (having dined there last in 2010). I am happy to report that Brennan’s is better than ever, with a well done remodel, great service, and improved food. Here is an update of my original post on Brennan’s from 2013.
Garden Patio Room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The new owners spent an estimated $20 million on the remodel. I love the pink and green color scheme (the building is still signature pink) in the main dining room, the Garden Patio Room, which overlooks the patio through large windows. It looks to me like a 1940s or 1950s room, with its green tufted semi-circular booths and trellised walls, Mardi Gras themed paintings, and wonderful lighting, but it’s actually all new.
chandelier by local artist Julie Neill – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
In the front of the restaurant there is a new dining room with peach walls, framed paintings, a Mexican tiled floor, and windows overlooking Royal Street (the restaurant didn’t have front windows before). After passing that dining room you pass the host stand and then into the expanded bar & cocktail lounge, featuring a large mirror with hand painted tropical birds that reflects the view through windows of the patio, a copper-topped bar with bar stools in mauve, and lamps over the bar that resemble bird cages.
cocktail lounge & bar – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
There are also four private dining rooms upstairs and the wine cellar dining room downstairs for private functions. And lastly, there is the courtyard for alfresco dining.
courtyard – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
This time for breakfast I had the classic Creole dish Grillades and Grits, veal medallions pounded flat and grilled (traditionally they are pan-fried so this was a lighter variation), served with what I would call grit sticks (Brennan’s calls them grit fries), brown veal jus, an egg, and topped with greens. To drink I had their Caribbean Milk Punch (Mt. Gay Black Barrel rum, Buffalo Trace bourbon, cream, nutmeg, and vanilla) and a pot of their delicious, dark, and rich coffee with chicory.
Grillades & Grits – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
Don’t forget to save room for Bananas Foster, which was invented at Brennan’s!
The Jab and friends at Brennan’s – photo by waiter, 2016
Brennan’s 417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130
Open Mon-Fri 9:00am – 10:00pm, Sat-Sun 8:00am – 10:00pm
Caesar Cardini, 1935 – image by San Diego History Center
Born in Italy in 1896 as Cesare Cardini, he immigrated to the US with his brothers Alex (Alessandro), Nereo, and Caudencio. He opened a restaurant in Sacramento before moving to San Diego and opening his first Tijuana restaurant with Alex and Guadencio’s involvement.
Original Caesar’s Place restaurant in the Hotel Comercial, 2nd & Revolución, Tijuana, c. 1930 – image by The Kitchen Project
Original Caesar’s Place was opened by Cesar Cardini in Tijuana about 1924 in the Hotel Comercial at 2nd and Revolución, next door to the Mexicali Bar, the “World’s Longest Bar” (demolished for a Woolworth’s, but the Hotel Comercial building still stands – enter “Av Revolución 804” in Google Street View to see it).
Hotel Caesar’s Place, 5th & Revolución, Tijuana, 1920s – image by The Kitchen Project
He also opened a restaurant at the Hotel Caesar’s Place in 1927 at Revolución and 5th Street. There is a plaque on the sidewalk in front of the entrance to Caesar’s today, which is still in the Hotel Caesar. I assume Caesar Cardini owned the hotel that bore his name but I haven’t been able to confirm this.
photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
Caesar’s restaurants became very popular in Tijuana in the 1920s and 1930s with Americans and Hollywood celebrities who were flocking in droves to Tijuana to drink (America was still in Prohibition), dine, and gamble.
Original Caesar’s Place at Hotel Comercial, 2nd & Revolución, c. 1935 – image by Peter Morruzi
But after Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, Prohibition ended in 1933, and Mexico made gambling illegal in 1935 business dropped off.
Hotel Comercial, Avenida Revolución & 2nd, Tijuana, 1940s
According to the Reno Evening Gazette in July, 1936, Caesar Cardini closed his café, which was probably the Original Caesar’s location in the Hotel Comercial because by the 1940s the space had a club called Tropics (the pink front with the neon “Tropics” sign that can be seen in the postcard above; and next door to the hotel can be seen the long Mexicali beer hall).
Caesar Cardini Cafe, San Diego, opening night, 1936 – image by San Diego History Center
He left the restaurant business in Tijuana and opened the Caesar Cardini Cafe in downtown San Diego at Front and B Streets, but due to pressure by rival nightclubs partly owned by mobsters who made threats to Cardini’s musicians, among other strong-arm tactics, it closed in six months. Afterwards he became a partner in two local restaurants, the Tavern Hacienda at 47th St. and University Ave. and the Beacon Inn in Cardiff. He even opened his Chula Vista home to diners as the Caesar Cardini Villa, serving 50 cent meals. In 1938 he moved with his family to Los Angeles and opened a liquor store in Montclair. In 1950 he started bottling his salad dressing and eventually he opened Caesar Cardini Foods store on La Cienega, which was very popular as by then the Caesar salad had become the new fad (more on that later). Caesar Cardini passed away in 1954. His daughter Rose trademarked his salad dressing’s name in 1983 and developed a large salad dressing business (the dressing is bow made by T. Marzetti company).
San Diego note: Caesar Cardini never owned Caesar’s at 535 University Ave. in Hillcrest. It was owned by Caesar Pastore and his family from 1928 until 1972, then it became Cavalieri’s (1972-1978), The Summer Place (1978-84), the beloved (and frequented by yours truly) City Deli (1984-2013), and Harvey Milk’s American Diner (2013-2014). Nor did Cardini own Caesar’s in Mission Valley and Grossmont Center, or Little Caesar’s in Point Loma (all owned by the Pastore family and all closed).
Hotel Caesar’s and Caesar’s Cafe, 1940s – postcard image by Peter Moruzzi
Meanwhile, Hotel Caesar’s in Tijuana was enlarged during the 1940s and 1950s. Original Caesar’s Place at the hotel stayed open but was renamed Caesar’s Cafe, then just Caesar’s. Note in the above postcard view the new tower, while the building to the right of the tower is clearly the original hotel, as seen in the 1920s photo earlier in this post.
Hotel Caesar, 1950s postcard
By the 1950s the hotel had grown to three stories and its exterior looked much as it does today, except for the signage.
There also was a Caesar’s Palace at one time at 4th and Revolución, on the second floor above a drug store (it had an outdoor patio for alfresco dining as well).
The Caesar Salad
The exact origins of the Caesar salad are unknown, but there are at least four origin stories:
The oldest story (reported the Zanesville Times Recorder in 1947) is that Caesar Cardini invented the Caesar salad at his eponymous Tijuana restaurant in the 1920s. His daughter Rosa was more exact. In Better Homes and Gardens in 1960 she claimed he invented it on the 4th of July, 1924, when they were running low on food, out of Romaine lettuce, a one-minute coddled egg, garlic croutons, Parmesan or Romano cheese, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, whole pepper, pear vinegar and olive oil (no anchovies), and served as a main course of dressed whole Romaine leaves that were eaten with the fingers.
The book “Dining Out in Hollywood and Los Angeles” by Craig Davidson, published in 1949, stated that a former partner with Caesar and Alex, Paul Maggiora, invented the salad in 1927 in San Diego for some pilots and called it the Aviator’s Salad, but Alex Cardini renamed it the Caesar salad after his brother. Paul later opened the famous restaurant Paul’s Duck Press in downtown Los Angeles, where he served the Caesar salad he claimed to have invented (as whole Romaine leaves).
In 1968 Caesar’s brother Alex Cardini claimed he invented the salad in 1926 in his Mexico City restaurant and named it after his brother. Alex’s granddaughter Carla Cardini has said that Alex actually invented the salad at Caesar’s in Tijuana when he was a partner in his brother’s restaurant, naming it the Aviator’s Salad because he made it for a group of airmen from San Diego. Later he served the salad in his Mexico City restaurant as “the original Alex Cardini Caesar salad”.
In 1988 it was reported by Barbara Hansen in the Los Angeles Times that in 1918 in Austria an Italian named Beatriz Santini created a salad of Romaine lettuce, oil & vinegar, parmesan cheese, and soft-boiled eggs. Her son Livio Santini emigrated to Tijuana, worked for Caesar Cardini, and made Caesar his mother’s salad around 1925, which was a hit with Caesar’s customers.
Ensaladero Guillermo Carreño Olsen, who would later open his own restaurant in Tijuana called El Bodegon de Guillermo (destroyed by fire in 1978) – image by Carrolyn Carreño
Whichever story you believe, here are some interesting tidbits about the Caesar salad:
Julia Child (the famous chef) ate with her parents at Caesar’s in Tijuana in the 1920s and was served a Caesar salad, prepared tableside by Caesar Cardini himself, that was served as whole leaves of Romaine. Whether he invented it or what it was named at the time she couldn’t recall.
Sometime in the 1930s the salad was introduced in Los Angeles, but it didn’t become popular in Southern California until after WWII. In 1945 Sunset magazine published a recipe for a “Romaine salad” which was being served at La Avenida restaurant in Coronado, CA (near San Diego), which was a Caesar salad, if not by name, by ingredients (but without anchovies).
In 1948, Lucius Beebe in Gourmet magazine said it was “the gastronomic highlight of the current moment” in Los Angeles as it was being served at Chasen’s, Romanoff’s, Hansen’s Scandia, Perino’s, the Town House, and the Brown Derby on Hollywood and Vine. But, curiously, a 1948 Brown Derby menu shows no Caesar salad listed.
In 1949 the Caesar salad became a nationwide fad and started appearing on menus across the country (“Fads of 1949” in the Britannica Book of the Year, 1950).
The original Caesar salad had no anchovies, but in a 1950 cookbook (Love and Dishes by Niccolo de Quattrochiocchi) a recipe was published from the Pump Room in Chicago which called for six anchovies to be chopped and added to the salad dressing. By 1957 Sunset magazine’s published recipe also called for anchovies.
Caesar’s restaurant today
Caesar Cardini portrait at Caesar’s – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
In the 1980s as a young man I went to Tijuana with friends to party and shop for shoes but I was soured by the atmosphere in the late 80s. Too many American college yahoos and sailors would fill the town on weekends, drinking until they got sick, yelling and carrying on. Every bar it seemed tried to shove cheap tequila down your throat whether you wanted it or not. So I stopped going there. My last visit was around 1989, though I went to Rosarito and Ensenada a few times in the early 90s. In 2012 I returned to Ensenada and I couldn’t believe how much it had changed for the better (as far as I’m concerned). American tourists mostly stopped going during the drug cartel violence of the 2000s. Now it’s mostly Mexican tourists (with a few adventurous American tourists) who don’t go just to get wasted on tequila, but go for the excellent food and the wine & beer. The cocktails are better, too. In the 80s I didn’t care if my margarita was made with a mix, but now I do.
Caesar’s bar – image by Dean Curtis, 2016
Going to Caesar’s today is a wonderful experience. The place was packed with people, many who dressed up for a night out. Perhaps not in suits like in this vintage postcard, but in nice clothes (no jeans and t’s).
Old postcard of Caesar’s Bar and Lounge
The first room at Caesar’s is long, with a bar on one side about a third of the way down the room. The ceilings are coffered wood and the floors are in a black & white checkerboard pattern. The walls are covered with dozens of old photographs and memorabilia of Tijuana.
Front dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
The menu is Continental. Some of their specialties (besides the Caesar salad) are beef Wellington, duckling a la orange, escargot, French onion soup, and ensalada Victor, invented in the 1940s at Victor’s restaurant in Tijuana, a salad of Cotija cheese, olive oil, egg, mayonnaise, and wine vinegar. But you can also get Mexican food, steaks, seafood, chicken dishes, and pasta.
Back dining room – photo by Dean Curtis, 2016
My friend and I shared a Caesar salad, which was made tableside by Armando, an ensaladero at Caesar’s for over 30 years! I also had a beef tongue appetizer, which was excellent, and beef Wellington, but I didn’t know that it would be cooked medium. It was very tender but a bit overdone for my liking. When you go, if you order steak, here are the Mexican-Spanish translations (from Quora): Rare = Casi cruda
Medium-rare = Medio cruda
Medium = Término medio
Medium-well = Tres cuartos
Well-done = Bien cocida
The Jab watching Armando prepare the Caesar salad at Caesar’s in Tijuana – photo by D. A. Kolodenko, 2016
Caesar’s Av. Revolución 1059, Zona Centro, 22000 Tijuana, B.C., Mexico
Phone: +52 664 685 1927
Open Sun-Wed 10:00am-10:00pm, Thu-Sat 12:00pm-12:00am